Although Buddhist Temples have decreased in years past, the Jade Buddha Temple has stood firm and now is one of the few Buddhist remaining temples in Shanghai city. The main attraction is the two Jade Buddha sculptures. It is the most popular temple in the city and visitors come from all over to visit it.
You can visit the temple even if you are not Buddhist. After all, it’s a major attraction in the city. There are also other sculptures, numerous cultural and religious relics and artifacts within the temple.
However, they are not as remarkable as the two. It is a tourist attraction as well as an active place of worship with about seventy monks currently living there. If you are interested in culture, religion, Buddhist traditions or looking for new places to explore in the city you must visit this place.
-There is an eatery just in case you get hungry.
-It offers a quiet and elegant environment away from the noisy and busy streets in the city.
-It is amongst the last few active monasteries within the city.
-It is at its busiest during the Lunar New Year, which happens around February. Close to 20000 Buddhists flock there to pray for good luck and prosperity.
-Photography of the Jade Buddha sculptures is not allowed.
It was founded in 1882 when Huigeng arrived with the two Jade Buddha sculptures. Huigeng was initially on a journey to Tibet when he passed through Burma on his way back.
Of the five jade sculptures bestowed upon him, he donated two to Shanghai where he constructed a sanctuary using contributions to house the two sculptures before his death. It was formerly on the outer edge of the city but was occupied at the time of the Chinese revolution, and therefore the sculptures were moved.
Its current location was built after the war by another monk on land donated by a loyal Qing imperial court officer.
Construction was concluded in 1928, ten years after building started, and the temple now serves as a tourist attraction to foreigners and a place of worship to local devotees. It is a major attraction during tours hence the little number of resident monks within its walls.
The sanctuary design echoes that used by the Song empire which although not big allows you easy manoeuvrability around its halls as they are easily accessible.
The Culture Of The Jade Buddha Temple
Hall of heavenly kings: At the entrance of this hall sits the Maitreya, a Buddha considered as the future Buddha with a sculpture (Skanda) at his back who is the temple protector. On each of the four corners of the hall, the heavenly king’s sculptures symbolize prosperity in all corners of the earth.
Grand Hall: This is directly opposite the hall of heavenly kings and a key part of the shrine with three Buddha sitting in the hall. Other gods made of gold line the east and west side of the hall and another 18 gods made of gold ones in 2 rows outside the chamber. This is a remarkable sight, and you will also get to learn about the significance of the sculptures and these other golden gods.
Jade Buddha Chamber: Located on a tranquil patio just past the grand chamber is the chamber housing the most important gem of them all. He is the reason that this shrine was built; to house him and his counterpart. In here sits the Jade Buddha sculpture who is made of pure white jade symbolizing meditation and nirvana (spiritual enlightenment).
He is almost 2 meters in height and expertly designed and placed on a high tower. You have to pay a fee if you intend to ascend to the 2nd level and view it in proximity. He is adorned with priceless stones and other jewellery and weighs almost 1000kg.
Reclining Buddha Chamber: This is right next to the Jade Buddha Hall and houses the other jade Buddha brought by Huigeng from Burma. He is almost 1m tall, is placed behind a glass window and is also made of white jade. He is smiling and resting horizontally as one of his hand supports his head. His happy peaceful expression and pose symbolize the death of Buddha having achieved nirvana.
You should, however, be careful not to confuse the small Buddha with a bigger one by his side. He is close to 4m tall, a perfect replica of the smaller Buddha but made of marble, not jade. He was a donation from Singapore to the Jade Buddha temple.
Other artifacts: There are other numerous historical and religious scripts, artwork, priceless paintings, old Buddhist writings, over 700 Dazang Sutras and numerous sculptures within the walls of the sanctuary. Whilst the jade sculptures are a major attraction, do not forget to explore the temple, study further about other gods, signs, relics, and the religion as a whole. There is also a library available if you are willing to explore further.
Gift shop: If you need any souvenirs while leaving the sanctuary, there is a curio and antique store along the temple where you can buy miniature replicas to take home.
Restaurant: Do not forget to try out the eatery within the temple. No meat is served in this establishment, as Buddhists are vegetarian. Not a fan of greens? Don’t worry it is a mixture of a vegetarian diet with diverse Shanghai cuisine such as delicious noodles, which are appetizing and taste great. Additionally, the food is served in a cool, relaxing environment.
Tips For Visiting The Jade Buddha Temple
-There is ¥20 per entry fee.
-A fee of ¥10 Yuan is charged to view the sitting Jade Buddha on the 2nd floor.
-Prepare for crowds as it is a popular destination for tourists
-Avoid the Lunar New Year (1-15TH February) as it is mostly crowded with religious devotees.
-Taking pictures not allowed in the Jade Buddha chamber but is allowed elsewhere in the temple.
-The eatery is reasonably priced on the ground floor but if you go upstairs prepare for higher prices.